Last week we got the chance to sit down with Paul Neurath, long time game designer who had worked on such titles as Ultima: Underworld, Thief, and System Shock. Paul is now part of Otherside Entertainment which is a new studio looking to bring new life into classic RPGs that we grew up with. The studio is beginning their first project with Underworld Ascension which will bring players back to the classic Underworld franchise. The team obviously cannot use the Ultima name, but you get the hint. With the return to so many RPG styles in PC gaming, a return to Underworld looks very interesting.
Paul explained that the team founded the company and was given the chance to bring the Underworld IP almost twenty years later his team jumped at the chance. Underworld had set the stage for some serious games like Deus Ex and Bioshock. It is heralded as a classic now and deserves a solid reboot for RPG fans. The team had released two Underworlds and had plans for a third which never came to light. Paul said that the basis for this third title is what the team will be using as blueprints for the new RPG.
The challenge for the team now is adapting the theories they had for the game back in the mid 90s to all of the updated software and game design mechanics of today. Paul was thrilled by all of the leaps in game design over the past two decades and now has the chance to work within that new environment. Underworld was one of the first games to feature the first person 3D environment for players. Paul said that the team is only a few weeks in, but wants the chance to bring the franchise up to date in the current game environment. He also is taking the time to do justice to a beloved older game.
In the 1990s RPGs had a much tighter design. They mirrored pen and paper RPGs of that era. They were simpler and did not have elements like online play. They tried to take Underworld and expand ideas like experience points into a computer game. To make players think through rooms in a dungeon and solve puzzles. If you did not know how to complete a puzzle to unlock a door, that was it, there was no way to open it. Now, with the Internet guides abound, you can solve almost any puzzle in seconds. Paul wants to still give players a sense of mystery. He broke it down into three core elements. How does a player survive? How do they solve problems? What kind of tactical situations can players get into? These are just some of the questions the team asks on a daily basis. Paul has said, that games have become much more forgiving now than they were back in the day. So they have to adjust for that as well.
We know it is early days but we are looking forward to what the team at Otherside Entertainment has to offer. Underworld is a legendary franchise that deserves a reboot. With so many games like Divinity and Pillars of Eternity making their way back into players hands, having a new Underworld will just add to a solid list of upcoming RPGs.